MIAMI LAKES (CBSMiami) – The sudden death of a South Florida dancer is changing the way some parents think about their kids’ heart health.
Breanna Vergara was born to dance. The 11-year-old from Miami Lakes came alive on stage.
“There’s nothing more I loved to be doing that watch my daughter Breanna dance,” her father Jesus Vergara said.
But one December day, the dancing stopped, the result of a syndrome she didn’t even know she had.
“We have been left with a lot of questions, because we didn’t know what happened,” Breanna’s mother Claudia Vergara told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana.
Breanna’s parents say their seemingly healthy daughter collapsed at the Miami Lakes dance studio where she spent most of her time.
“Seeing my daughter there, there’s no words,” Jesus said as he fought back tears.
“They worked on her. They did CPR. They transported her to the hospital. But unfortunately, it wasn’t enough,” Claudia added.
It wasn’t until months later that the Vergaras learned Breanna suffered from “Pre-excitation Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome,” a congenital heart defect caused by an extra electrical pathway in the heart.
The disorder could have been detected with a simple electrocardiogram, or EKG.
“It is something that could have been preventable. I think that’s what bothers more,” Claudia said.
Breanna’s parents have now made it their mission to encourage other parents to have their kids tested.
At Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, middle and high school students can get a free EKG with an appointment.
Dr. Anthony Rossi, the director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, said they’ve seen a significant increase in patients recently referencing Breanna.
“One hundred percent of the time, an EKG can pick up Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome,” he said.
The Vergaras’ push for EKGs has already saved at least one life.
“She’s our guardian angel. She came to us for a purpose. She saved her,” Katie Lopez said.
Lopez’s daughter Taylor is a dancer at the same studio where Breanna suddenly collapsed.
Miami Dancity Studio now requires its competitive performers to get an EKG, and Taylor’s test revealed she, too, had Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome.
“I was shocked. I asked three times because I thought it was a mistake,” Katie Lopez said.
Taylor had surgery Monday to correct the issue and is expected to be back on the dance floor next month.
The memory of Breanna will always be in her heart.
“She saved my life,” Taylor said.
It’s a legacy Claudia Vergara is proud of.
“It’s something good that has come out of this. My daughter’s death wasn’t in vain,” she said.
For more on the free EKG program at Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, click here. To set up an appointment, call (855) MCH-EKGS or (855) 624-3547.
To contribute to the Breanna Vergara Foundation, click here.